• Published 2nd Aug 2015
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Oskar Osäker: Your Worst Enemy - Legionary



The third entry into the Viral Unicorn series

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Chapter 4: Megalomania

Emerald stared down at her reflection in the pool of water.

The virus was now in the cavern of the Mirror Pool which was exactly where Diane had told her it was. Kneeling at the edge of the pool, Emerald stared down at the magical body of water with a considering stare. After a moment she began to reach towards it but stopped before sighing and standing up.

'As much as I want to start experimenting and testing this thing out...' Emerald thought as she walked away. 'I've really got too much on my plate already. Medical 'drones', the next generation of Orion serum, further improvements on the Power Armor so that it actually fits the name, figuring out the changelings training regimen and specialized courses, not to mention all the damn diplomatic work and networking I have to do in the League of Nations. I just have no time to give this any attention for now.'

Emerald walked up the path leading out of the cavern. Eventually she came out of the hole on the surface. She came to a stop and looked down at the hole before stomping down with a foot. An instant later, the hole closed up with a smooth wall of stone.

“All good, boss?” Bluno asked as he walked over in his new armor with the helmet held in one of his paws.

“Pretty much,” Emerald answered and turned towards the Alpha who had roughly a company's worth of Warhounds gathered a short distance behind him, all of which were recovering veterans of the changeling invasion. “I'm not going to trust that just covering up the top is going to be foolproof however, which brings me to the reason why I brought you and and some Warhounds here.”

“I want you and your dogs to clear a small area of woodlands around here,” Emerald said, motioning towards an area of the forest. “Then set up some basic fortifications and hold until some engineers come in and set up something more permanent. Afterwards, we'll set up some patrols and a constant watch over the sealed cavern.”

“Right! We'll get right to it, boss!” Bluno said before turning towards the Warhounds behind him. “Come on you lot, time to uproot some trees! I want to see a nice big pile within the hour!”

Emerald crossed her arms and watched as the Warhounds quickly set into a blistering speed, tearing up the landscape and ripping out trees out of the ground through sheer brute force. The virus smiled. It was good to see her dogs getting into their work, especially the ones who had been hurting because of her decision to lead them into a battle. They had been off relaxing for a while and she had figured that now would be a good time to ease them back into work with something simple.

'Nice to see that the augments are coming in nicely,' Emerald thought as she watched one of the larger dogs manage to pull a tree out by the roots and carry it over to place it in a steadily growing pile. 'Going to take more than a week before the muscle optimization finishes, though. Same for the sub-dermal weave reinforcements. The enhanced senses are coming in slowly as well, if only so not to overwhelm them with the super senses coming in all at once. They definitely got about say... a month left before everything will be fully grown in. And speaking of fully grown, I need some dogs with strong wills if I'm going to finalize the final tests for my multi-year project. Need a name for them...'

Emerald watched the dogs working for a few minutes more, their enhanced bodies making the heavy loads easy and their powerful armor making accidents irritating rather than painful. The virus then turned away and teleported back to the Hub. More specifically the very place the Power Armor was being made in.

The room Emerald was now in was very different from how the other factories of the Enclave looked. That was because the factories had metal mechanical devices. While the devices here were certainly mechanical, they were most certainly not metal.

Runic circuitry lined the walls of the room as dozens of organic arms clad in white plastic-like shells went to work. The beginning process was the very first layer of armor that sat against the internal padding. The first layer was applied via special spray heads to a rough approximation of a Warhound. The spray went over every inch as another set of arms used enchanted tools to levitate and move the dummy. Once a layer was finished, another set of sprays moved in and applied a growth stimulant to the viral cells which made the layer quickly grow and harden into a hard plastic like shell. This was quickly followed by three pairs of arms with drill-like heads to shape the joint flex areas of the armor. Then another set of arms swung in and began applying the runic paint to the outside of the shell before a set of arms quickly implanted a series of bio-gems in the lower back. Finally, the sprays swung back in and applied another layer of armor, which was quickly grown and hardened before slight flaws were drilled out. From above came one arm that ended in many tendrils which quickly extended and sought out a socket at the base of the neck. The armor suddenly expanded outwards and forwards, exposing the internals. Another set of manipulator arms then began to quickly attack the internal padding of the armor before the armor folded back up. A set of telekinetic arms up on the ceiling then motioned towards the finished set of armor, moved it into a fetal position before taking up and out off to the side where they were being stored briefly before fitting. In total, the process took ten minutes.

Emerald stared with a self satisfied smile before looking down the length of the room and seeing the process being repeated at twenty other places.

'Always pays to future proof,' Emerald thought before heading out towards the main doors of the room.

Emerald walked out the doors and came to the sight of a courtyard filled with Warhounds, all there to collect their new armor or there to get fitted for their set. Tavish was nearby and was talking with Missy, clearly being walked through how an armor that was more than twice his size was going to eventually fit him.

“So hows this big lump supposed to fit me, lass?” Tavish asked as he kicked the curled up piece of armor. “Ain't looking like it'll be snug if you ask me.”

“It's real simple, actually,” Missy replied and took out a small blade. “The armor is technically a living being, so what I just need is some blood of yours. Then I give it to the armor and it'll start changing itself to suit you and only you.”

“Just a drop, then?” Tavish asked and reached out with a finger when Missy nodded.

“There we go,” Missy said after making a small cut and getting a drop on the blade. “Just need to insert this in the base of the neck, then...”

The moment Missy briefly inserted the blade into the base of the neck, the whole suit started shuddering and shaking for several long moments. Eventually the suit stopped its shaking and returned to its stillness.

“There! Good to go,” Missy said.

“So I can get in now?” Tavish asked.

“Well... not yet,” Missy answered with a shake of her head before looking down at her clipboard. “The armor needs twenty four hours to start and finish the changes it'll make to itself. But once it's done it'll fit you perfectly and feel like a second skin. You might even end up feeling more comfortable in the armor than out.”

“Oh I can nae hardly wait, lass!” Tavish said excitedly. The lenses on that helmet looked rather strong, so chances were he wasn't going to suffer any more eye related injuries.

'Nice and quiet...' Emerald thought as she watched Warhounds moving back and forth in the area. 'Now would be the perfect time to run some experiments on the infected changelings... really have to give them a different name.'

“Changeling!” Emerald called out and got a few glances from some Warhounds before they went about their business.

“Yes, Queen Mother?” said a changeling as they walked to the front of her from behind. “Have you finished our training regimen?”

“Not just yet,” Emerald replied. “I'm still planning out the courses for you. Right now I need your help to run some tests.”

“We are glad to assist, Queen Mother,” the changeling said while bowing.

“Right... follow me,” Emerald said after a moment, crushing down a feeling of intense annoyance from the behavior. Suddenly she decided she was going to make the tests a bit more strenuous than they needed to be.

ALPHA

A female unicorn by the name of Bolt Tuner sighed as she laid down several sections of rails to be hammered in by some of her fellow construction workers.

Currently just outside Ponyville there was a rather large amount of construction work going on. Ponyville's simple railroad system was being expanded upon massively to make room for the equally massive amounts of trade goods that would soon be using them. Already hundreds of miles of railroad had been laid leading to both the east and west coast of Equestria. Outside Ponyville, a new station would be constructed. One meant to manage the flow of trade goods up and down the tracks with an array of switchable tracks and moving platforms to arrange and put together long lines of cargo trains. Even the ports at both ends of the newly expanded railroads were being upgraded to handle the loads they would be carrying, not to mention the cargo ships that would be arriving on a daily basis to load up and leave. One would wonder where all the money to fund this was coming from considering Equestria was still somewhat recovering from an economic downturn, but the projects were widely known to be jointly funded, with a vast majority of the costs being handled by the Enclave and their rather controversial leader.

Bolt was just about to pick up another set of rails to lay down when a loud whistle filled the air.

“Lunch time!” the construction supervisor bellowed.

With a somewhat relieved sigh, the unicorn placed the rails back down on the ground.

“Come on, Tunie!” one of her coworkers said excitedly. “We get a free banquet to eat from today!”

Bolt smiled at that, but honestly she had already packed her lunch and wanted her sandwich over any banquet food. The unicorn quickly went off into an area covered by a tarp that served as a sort of locker room for the construction teams and retrieved her lunch box. Walking out, she went over to an area with many picnic tables set that was quickly crowding with hundreds of construction workers.

“Saved ya a seat, Tunie!” shouted one of the workers on her team, waving a hoof in the air. With a smile, Bolt quickly trotted over and sat down beside her team members.

Bolt quickly opened up her lunch box and removed the three pieces of a sandwich she had packed. Each piece was a foot in length and from a ten foot hero sandwich. Construction was very labor intensive and even unicorns like Bolt often felt starving by the time short breaks or lunches were called. Though honestly, Bolt had to admit to herself she was a bit of a big eater, not that anyone could ever tell from her figure. As Bolt began wolfing down the first of her three sandwich pieces, the sounds of conversation started to fill the air.

“Can't believe she is just going to get away with this...” said a voice from the table behind her.

“From what I heard there are going to be sanctions, so no, she isn't exactly getting away with it,” answered another.

“That isn't enough!” the first voice replied. “That's a slap on the fetlock and you know it! My children were traumatized by what she and her lot did in Canterlot! Tartarus, my wife and I were traumatized as well... that poor changeling...”

“I agree with him. Why in the world are we just accepting these people who choose to live in the most horrific place in the world, backed up by their upjumped slaver soldiers?” said another. “Just because they have something a lot of other nations want, all we little ponies are supposed to just smile and embrace them? It's not right.”

Bolt frowned as she started biting into her second sandwich piece. Honestly, she didn't like diamond dogs too much either, and had a good reason for it being a former slave herself. She had been stuck in one of the diamond dogs’ mines for well over a month laboring every day and given little more than grass to eat, though honestly she could admit she was barely eating any worse than the Diamond Dogs themselves. However, then came the order from what she had thought was the new leader of the diamond dogs, the Gray Fox. All the slave ponies were freed to the surface and no more ponies would be taken captive for forced labor again.

She was rather grateful for being freed after all the work she had to do for that long month and a half. Enough so that when the time came when the Enclave revealed themselves, she was willing to give the benefit of the doubt once it was becoming apparent later on they were making amends for previous crimes anyway.

'The Gray Fox turned out to not be the leader in the end,' Bolt thought to herself as she chewed on the last piece of her second sandwich. 'But later on it turned out that Emerald Gleaner was revealed to be the actual leader. It's also been revealed that she is a shapeshifter of sorts, so was she the Gray Fox as well? Or was the Gray Fox hired by her? Nopony has answered that question yet and it hasn't really been mentioned by either of the princesses. I wonder what had happened to the last leader of the diamond dogs? The Gray Fox said he was down below feeding rats, and considering what Emerald and her armor did in Canterlot... I don't think the old leader is actually alive anymore. And considering what the diamond dogs got up to under his command, I can't find myself feeling too upset about the idea.'

“Hey Tunie, you see this?” a coworker asked, waving a newspaper at her.

“Nope,” Bolt replied and telekinetically brought the newspaper over. “What's going on?”

“There was an accident not too long ago,” came the answer. “Two pegasi got hurt and some land got wrecked. Check it out.”

'Out of Control Storm Cloud Annihilates Area,' Bolt read the headline. 'Two pegasi were found frozen solid soon after a cloud suddenly turned into a storm front and obliterated two square miles of country. The two pegasi weather controllers were safely thawed out but still suffered minor brain damage, losing two weeks of memory on top of any idea of what happened to the cloud that could have caused the accident. The Cloudsdale Headquarters for Weather Control has no comment as of yet, as their own personal investigations into the matter are still ongoing.'

As Bolt began to bite into her final sandwich piece while reading, a low rumble filled the air and the plastic and cups on all the tables started to shake and move noticeably. In the distance there was a small explosion of dust and dirt before figures started to appear in the dust clouds. Soon the clouds parted and revealed what was underneath.

A group of diamond dogs rose up from the hole they had just made, all of them were wearing hardhats and breathing masks to help deal with the dust. They waited a few moments for the dust clouds to settle before heading back to work and cleaning up the edges of the rather large hole they made.

As the sounds of grumbling from ponies and some curious workers washed over her, Bolt stared over towards where the dogs were working. She and the other workers knew that the Enclave was creating a large tunnel and train network of their own to connect with Equestria and would be finishing the tunnel today.

It had been quite a while since she had last seen a diamond dog, and Bolt wasn't sure what she should be feeling right now. After several moments of staring after the working dogs in curiosity, absently chewing on her sandwich, she decided to get up and see what they were doing up close.

Bolt got up from her seat and walked over with her sandwich piece. Her coworkers knew of her history regarding diamond dogs and were wondering if she was going to give them a piece of her mind. Before long, the unicorn construction worker found herself just beside the now rather massive hole that had been created in the ground.

Looking down, Bolt saw that the tunnel was easily fifty feet across and was sixteen feet tall. The path leading down into the tunnel was a very gradual gradient. There were dozens of dogs wearing safety gear in the tunnels smoothing the walls and setting up support columns. Way in the back, the unicorn could spy a group of dogs wearing large tanks of their backs and spraying down the walls of the tunnel.

“Hey,” Bolt said to a nearby diamond dog worker.

“Huh?” The dog looked up and pulled down his protective mask and goggles. “Oh uhh... hello there, uh, pony.”

“What are they doing?”Bolt asked, pointing at the dogs with the large tanks attached to their backs.

“Oh, they are spraying water,” the dog answered. “But the water has tons of mold spores mixed in which will recycle soiled air and pollutants. So we can have trains and the like deep underground without worrying too much about ventilation.”

“Ah,” Bolt stated and returned to staring at the worker who was beginning to feel uncomfortable. “Used to be a diamond dog slave, you know.”

“Oh! Umm...” the dog said with a scratch of his head, looking completely lost. “I'm sorry? I don't know what I can...”

“It's alright,” Bolt replied with a shrug. “Glad you aren't doing that anymore.”

“We never wanted to do that,” the dog said with a sigh. “We would have preferred to dig the gems ourselves. It was much faster. But the old boss was... very mean.”

“Glad he's gone,” Bolt stated.

“Uh... me too,” the dog replied.

“Name?”

“I'm Berkeley,” the dog answered. “You?”

“Bolt Tuner. Friends call me Tunie,” Bolt replied and magically held out the remains of her sandwich piece when she heard the rumble of a stomach. “Sandwich?”

“Thank you, Bolt,” Berkeley said and took a chomp out of the sizable sandwich piece.

“Tunie,” Bolt corrected.

“Tunie,” Berkeley said with a smile before taking another bite.

BETA

“Is... is that... enough, Queen Mother?” the infected changeling asked from where she laid spread eagle on the ground, panting in exhaustion.

“Hmm... for now,” Emerald replied as she got up from her cross legged position. “You may go rest and relax in your assigned quarters.”

“Thank you... Queen Mother,” the changeling panted before disappearing in a flash of orange flames.

Emerald was currently outside on the surface, in the large area the Enclave controlled. Off to the side a new cottage next to Whisper Wind's own home was in the middle of having the finishing touches being placed; Diane's own cottage. Currently, said pony was on the surface as well playing with Flandre and wearing a simple silk dress the spider had weaved for her the previous day.

'She looks like shes having fun,' Emerald thought with a smile before frowning in consideration. 'Now... I've finally figured out the reason for why the changelings made me really aggressive towards them during the wedding and why Bon Bon didn't for as long as I’ve known her. The changelings' training were rushed and they spent many months on rationed love. Even for the military, the amount of food wasn't completely comfortable. When they arrived here, they felt so much love in the air they couldn't help but pull as much as they could into themselves and feast. So much so they started actively pulling on people around them. Somehow I subconsciously knew I was being fed on and was reacting accordingly. This is why I never reacted that way to Bon Bon. She always had a secure and ample supply of love from her best friend Lyra, and never needed to do anything more than absently draw in some love in the air whenever she wanted a small snack. Hmm... good to know I have some sort of instinct for these kind of things, but I wonder how far it goes?'

Emerald's attention was once more drawn to the sound of Diane and Flandre playing with each other. The pony was only a short distance away now, apparently playing tag with the little spider being it. Said spider then gave a large leap into the air and managed to tackle Diane to the ground, the both of them rolling over each other on the ground and coming to a stop just before Emerald.

“Having fun, girls?” Emerald asked with a small smile.

“Yep!” the two answered at once with a giggle and got up onto their legs.

“How are you doing, Diane?” Emerald asked the pink pony as she got up and brushed her mane out of her face, which was oddly straight instead of curly. “Are you liking your temporary apartment and neighbors so far?”

“Yeah, they are all so very nice and friendly!” Diane smiled before frowning and poking her hoof at the ground. “My neighbors are, anyway...”

“Is someone bothering you?” Emerald asked with a frown.

“Well not really,” Diane replied with a shake of her head. “I've just been going around trying to be friendly and make friends with others, but... not all the dogs are very nice to me. Most of them are though, so that's okay...”

“Hmm... Diane, why is your hair not curly anymore?” Emerald asked, deciding a quick change in topic was in order.

“Oh, this?” Diane said, running a hoof down the long curtain of straight pink hair running down one side of her face. “I just... wanted to look different and decided to keep it straight. Keeps getting in my face, though.”

“Ah.” Emerald nodded and went down onto a knee before Diane and reached out for her mane. “Here you go.”

“Huh?” Diane reached up to feel something in her mane and noticed that most of her mane was now out of her face. “A hair clip? Neat! Thank you, Emmy!”

“No problem.” Emerald smiled. “Now go have fun you two.”

“We will!” Flandre and Diane said together before Flandre took off running with Diane in pursuit.

'...I can't wait until all the new born pups are grown up a little more,' Emerald thought as she smiled after the departing forms of Diane and Flandre. 'Those two will certainly enjoy it. They are already so good with the kids we have already. Plus it will do a lot to curb prejudices to have all the little pups playing with a nice, super friendly pony.'

Emerald took a look around her surroundings and simply took in the sight of dogs going about their business, Warhounds training and patrolling. After watching everyone going about their lives for a minute, Emerald decided it was time she finally took a tour of her nation.

Emerald walked and soon found herself standing before the ravine that was next to the surface area the Enclave controlled. The dam was now completed and was providing its own supply of power to the Enclave. The Great Fox was still there floating within the ravine and being maintained by engineers to ensure it remained in usable condition. Down below the virus spotted movement in the water. Looking down, she spied the shy hippocampi who had made a home in the ravine. She was peeking out at her from behind a boulder before she gave a timid wave and dived back below the surface. Emerald smiled at that before turning about and walking away.

After a twenty minute walk, Emerald found herself back below in the Hub. The city was ever expanding as a slow but constant trickle of dogs from the independent packs immigrated to the city. Currently the total population had exploded from a starting number of ten thousand all the way to a hundred thousand, making the Enclave hold a fifth of the total population of the diamond dogs of Equestria. Of course a rather large fraction of that population was made up of newly born children, not just immigrated dogs. At the rate things were going, a decade or so in the future would find the adults being outnumbered by teenagers.

'And wouldn't that be a special kind of hell?' Emerald thought as she spied a group of female dogs carrying some pups who had yet to open their eyes. 'Heh, damn kids...'

The population growth also of course affected the Warhounds and their current number of dogs in training. Currently the Warhounds boasted roughly five thousand Dogs if one counted those that were going through augmentation and boot camp; a little under half of that number were fully trained Warhounds.

'Seriously, the way some of these new Warhounds look and treat me is almost hero worship,' Emerald thought as she came to an area that was crowded with construction work. 'I guess I can see where they are coming from... I did give them a nation again and they no longer have to worry about food, water or getting homes for themselves. Hell if they wanted to they could just lay around and eat and sleep all day. But that would get boring fast, wouldn't it? Diamond dogs like to work with their hands and would get restless at being still for too long. Same goes for a lot of people, really. No one likes doing nothing for long...'

Soon Emerald found herself overlooking a rather vast pit over the center of which had a large hole in the ceiling to let sunlight and fresh air in. This was going to be a vast expansion to the Hub as the city was beginning to suffer overpopulation issues. This place would have buildings made by workers who now truly knew what they were doing when it came to stonework. It would be an expansion that would increase the Hub by its own size and half again. Underground skyscrapers and gardens of fungal growth Emerald had decided to take the time to make, the buildings would be covered in designs and decorative carvings based on the Old Kingdom. The Hub would truly be a city for the people to be proud of with the original sections of it being dubbed the Founding Quarter.

'Only just got the place cleared out, though,' Emerald thought as she couldn't help the proud feeling that bubbled up within her. 'I imagine though that construction work of the expansion will go along a whole lot faster thanks to my newly gained skills in channeling.'

Emerald watched massive crowds of her dogs hard at work, creating pathways and foundations of what would eventually become the beautiful addition to their city in the future. Before much longer she turned away and made for the deeper depth of the Enclave where the more dangerous things were being held and tested.

Eventually the virus found herself entering what was a firing range designed for far longer ranged weapons as well as those possessing a much more powerful punch. At one end of the firing range was an artillery piece Emerald helped design. It was a simple and straightforward howitzer that wasn't as large as it could have been because it was designed to be pulled by hand and moved through tight tunnels. However, while the howitzer wasn't very big it made up for it in magical enhancements. Kinetic dampener runes on the shock absorbers allowed for the howitzer to be fired from the most precarious of locations. Those same runes allowed for lightening runes to be added to the gun's chassis for quicker and easier hauling that didn't result in the gun going flying when it fired. On the barrel itself were a wide array of runes of silencing and acceleration, making the artillery as quiet as an unsilenced gun shot and allowed it to fire far further than its appearance would suggest. It had been designated Magical Artillery Mark 1 or MA-1 for short.

'I should make a special shell for it to fire,' Emerald thought as the gun crew quickly loaded up a shell and fired it off at the target down the range. 'Something much more powerful than a simple high explosive round anyway.'

Turning to the next weapon in testing, Emerald saw a Warhound holding what appeared to be a rocket launcher on his shoulder. And at first appearance that would be correct, but this weapon wasn't just a simple rocket launcher; it was Emerald's first forays into combining computers and magic. It was basically a fire and forget rocket launcher, but rather than try to rapidly advance the dogs into such computer science, she aimed for basic electronics and cover the gaps with magic. The rocket had an electronic scope attached to the side that could lock onto a target as fast as one could push the lock on button. The rocket itself also had a technomagical component that received the targeting information from the scope and sought out the locked on target. The interesting thing was that one could change targets while the rocket was mid flight and if the rocket had the fuel and room to maneuver, it would seek the other target. Emerald was also considering making unique shells for this; better ones than the basic load out of fragmentation and HEAT missiles. The weapon had been designated Fire and Forget Magic Launcher Mark 1 or FML-1 for short.

The final weapon being tested on the range was simple and to the point; it was a sniper rifle. However this sniper rifle was exceedingly large and seemed more like something one would use if they wanted to snipe a tank. With a barrel that seemed more at home atop an armed APC than a handheld gun, this sniper rifle fired absurdly large rounds that pulped and shredded anything it hit. This gun also benefited from runic enhancements. Kinetic shock runes on the stock and most of the rifle’s body allowed one to almost fire it comfortably while standing, while the barrel itself was almost completely covered in runes of silence and acceleration that allowed the bullet to travel many magnitudes faster than it had a right to. Currently this rifle only had rather basic rounds, but Emerald had quite a few ideas for specialty shells since the gun's bullets were certainly massive enough to fit a decent number or runes. The gun's designation was thought up by the weapon testers themselves rather than Emerald, calling it the Dragonsbreath Sniper Rifle due to the noticeable flame coming out of the barrel after each shot.

After watching each of the weapons being tested for a short while, Emerald continued on her way, deciding to go even deeper down into the tunnels. She passed by a facility filled with obstacle courses meant to challenge dogs who now had power armor and help them get used to it. Inside, several dozen Warhounds were making use of said courses but were also sparring in the gyms and even fighting in melee with Raptors. This wasn't Emerald's stop, however, and neither was the cavern holding the growing new viral lifeforms she had designed. No, her destination was a secret room she had made and locked up herself deep in the depths of the world.

Eventually, she arrived. The air was stale and the heat was stifling, not so much that it would kill someone but you'd be quick to decide to go back the way you came before long. Emerald came to a solid wall of rock, seemingly a dead end. With a purposeful step of her foot, however, the walls parted revealing a vast room mostly cloaked in shadow. She walked over the boundary where the wall had been before willing the wall back and stepping forward.

The room was almost completely dark as stated but had many, many tall shapes looming in the darkness and a singular light attached to the very center of the room's ceiling. The sole light bulb in the depths of the world cast a light over a pile of metal parts and machinery carefully placed on a short stone platform. Emerald came to a stop before the pile and studied them for a moment before walking off to the side. She stepped into the deep darkness of the room and kept moving until she reached a far wall. She then grabbed hold of a metal handle and pulled open a trash chute like drawer and reached a hand within before pulling something out. Eventually she returned to the stone platform and the light, revealing the object in her hand to be a sort of strange rock with a black, bubbly like surface texture along with various other rocks floating in the air behind her.

Emerald reached out with a faintly glowing hand and the metal parts on the stone platform rose into the air. The parts began to spin and orbit one another and slowly began to com together one piece at a time until eventually all that was left was a mass of machinery. Emerald had yet to attach what was clearly the metal chassis of whatever she was building which continued to orbit the nearly completed machine. The virus then motioned to the rocks floating behind her and held up the one in her hand.

'The process to making these materials is so long and complicated,' Emerald thought as magical auras surrounded each rock and they all floated towards the machinery. 'Good thing I can cheat and skip directly to the end.'

Eventually the rocks stopped glowing and were now shown to have been transmuted into various metals and specific shapes which began to fit perfectly into certain places of the machinery. When all the transmuted metal had finally been placed, Emerald motioned and the chassis flew into motion and rapidly bolted into place. Only then did the completed piece of machinery settle back down on the ground and Emerald stood back to admire her creation.

For the most part it was egg shaped and black, with one end covered in some odd looking, boxy fins. However, one who knew their history could easily identify this creation as a bomb... specifically the fat man and the little boy nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

'All done,' Emerald thought with a smile before turning towards the shadows shrouding the room. A blinding darkness to anyone else, but to Emerald's eyes she could easily see the dark shapes looming there for what they were. 'And that makes one hundred and one ready to be used. It's an odd number, isn't it? I might as well try one out. They were all made the exact same way so if one works, they'll all work.'

'Right, big guy,' Emerald thought as she levitated the newly completed bomb up into the air. 'Let's find you a nice desert.'

Emerald teleported up into orbit along with her bomb. Briefly scanning the land below her and recalling some geology books, Emerald soon found her desert and teleported directly there. The virus then began to fly about the vast dunes for a few minutes before finding a decently flat and empty area. This desert was actually the Dune sea of the Bast Dynasty. It was incredibly massive and if you wanted to get through it you had to travel the outermost areas of it. One could travel through its heart, but unpredictable weather and harsh sunlight was often the doom of many a traveler.

Emerald set down her bomb and reached out with her magic before flipping an array of switches and setting off mechanisms at certain times and in a certain order. Finally, she stepped forward and opened a small panel. Inside was a basic dial timer along with a big red button and the words “ARM WARHEAD” above it. Emerald set the timer for one minute and hit the button before closing up the panel. She then stepped back before teleporting into orbit. She was actually legitimately curious if she could withstand a nuclear explosion now, but didn't want to try it just yet.

Arriving in orbit, the virus began a mental countdown over the next fifty seconds, a feeling of strangely uneasy excitement broiling in her stomach. As the final ten seconds began to count down, that uneasy feeling only seemed to grow. And for the first time in years, she honestly thought she had an upset stomach.

From this far above, the explosion could be called anticlimactic; a sudden bright light forming. But it was an explosion seen from space, a true weapon of incredible power, first of its kind in this world. One could say they should feel a kind of pride from that accomplishment. But Emerald was far from feeling pride. The uneasy feeling exploded into one of intense wrongness and for a moment Emerald was at a loss for why this was... until it hit her.

'A world that hasn't seen warfare in a thousand years. A world that has known nothing but peace for one millenia and... and what did I do?' Emerald thought, eyes wide and holding her head in her hands. 'I made a nuclear bomb. A weapon made to destroy whole cities and why?! I... I don't... I don't know why. The only thing I can think of... is... is just in case... what am I doing? What the HELL AM I DOING?!?'

For the longest moment Emerald hung there in the void of space staring down at the tiny black spot where a nuclear bomb had gone off. Utterly frozen in shock and horror at the lengths of her own paranoia.

'… Twilight's right, I need help,' Emerald thought with a dumbfounded expression. '… and it only took me setting off a goddamn nuclear bomb to realize it... god damn it all...'

For another moment that felt eternally long, Emerald hung in space, staring down at the world before leaving in a flash of light.

Far below in the Dune Sea, the site of the nuclear explosion was a complete ruin. Several kilometers of sand had been turned black and a vast crater was created at the epicenter of the blast zone. However, Emerald had been correct in how remote the location was. At the very most, a handful of people saw a small flash on the horizon and nothing more. The location of the actual blast zone would likely go on undiscovered for years if not decades. No one would know of what had gone here... almost no one.

In the center of the blackened crater, a small flame began to flicker to life. The flame rapidly grew until it was quite suddenly the size of a small building. The flames then pulled in on themself before coalescing into the shape of a great, horned dog.

The fiery horned hound began to stumble about and shake its head, releasing pained whines for several moment. Then its form began began to surge as the flames that made up its body began to flicker between an intense red and light green. Then, with one final enraged howl, the fiery hound turned an intense and blinding green.

GAMMA

'Ah, truly it is a travesty I cannot enjoy my time at sea longer,' Mikhail thought with his eyes closed. 'The feel of the wind in my fur, the splash of ocean waves. It's such a terrible coincidence I always get the work far away from the coast.'

Mikhail, wolverine and Ataman of all the mercenary armies their people had to be hired, was standing at the very forefront of a large cargo ship.

The cargo ship the wolverine was upon was just one of a merchant fleet of several others. They would be setting anchor for a time at the port in Vanhoover and then would be taking in their cargo of meat fruit when the stock finally arrived to be shipped. While the wolverine commanders had more than enough money to charter the merchant fleets needed for shipping and buy all the meat fruit, it was also clear Emerald wasn't interested in more money. What the newest addition to the politics of the League desired was something substantial, something more of use to her than simple money. The wolverines were an almost nomadic people, families moved where there was work. They had no factories to produce goods and no mines to pull precious metals out of the ground. They rented forges to make weapons and armors but in comparison to Enclave armor and weaponry, theirs was but wooden blades and tinfoil sheets. But there was one resource the wolverines produced everyone wanted. Their soldiers.

“The more the world changes, the more it stays the same,” Mikhail said aloud in his native language. “Is it not true, my comrade?”

After a moment of silence, another figure stepped forward to stand beside Mikhail, a wolverine with a natural glare and immaculately trimmed mustache and beard that ended in short lengths that hung off of his face. He was shorter than Mikhail and also leaner and his armor not as thick, but where Mikhail gave the air of juggernaut of physical might, this wolverine felt more like a tightly coiled spring ready to explode into motion.

“Indeed it does, Ataman,” the wolverine replied. “Newcomers and powerful though they may be, like the rest they too desire the might of the wolverines.”

“Perhaps desire is too strong a word?” Mikhail replied with a musing tone. “I have ruminated, more it seems she simply wanted something that wasn't currency. It makes sense, one who controls such a resources would soon find themselves awash with such offers and begin looking for trade of more useful resources in turn.”

“Yes... such valuable resources...” The wolverine stated with a frown and critical narrowing of his eyes at Mikhail. “And like the addle minded moths we were, we closed in to the flames.”

“This being nothing more than a trap is all that you see, Timujin?” Mikhail asked. “I myself see a bright and prosperous future where our families grow without number and eat without worry. We would be no more dependent on her then we are on our employers’ vast lands of forests and vaults for our food and money.”

“The difference is that our employers had to compete with each other,” Timujin stated gruffly. “Meat is not an easy commodity to come by in this world and all struggled equally to attain sufficient amounts to balance not starving and not angering the far more numerous herbivores. But now the scales of influence have shifted massively, never to be re-balanced. No one could ever match the sheer output of meat she can, not without crossing lines no one wishes to cross. Her position is unassailable and she can set whatever terms she wishes. And when we have grown too fat to fight and too numerous to dare stop eating, we'll have no choice but to dance to her commands.”

“Possibly...” Mikhail nodded, he didn't become Ataman purely on martial prowess and understood the hidden threat Timujin was talking about. But really, when it came down to it, Mikhail didn't really mind the idea of being beholden to another. If it meant if the families of the wolverines became fat and happy, then so be it. “Is there any other thoughts you have on this matter, Timujin?”

“Yes,” Timujin said and turned to stare at Mikhail. “I wouldn't have made such a deal with the Enclave.”

“Yes.” Mikhail nodded. “It is fortunate then that you are not Ataman.”

As Timujin narrowed his eyes at Mikhail's words, said wolverine couldn't help but be reminded of well over a decade ago, when he and Timujin were but both highly renowned mercenaries and often competed against each other for jobs. Though they often lost as much as they won against each other, those same competitions never lost the friendly air, at least until Mikhail and Timujin both competed for support to become the new Ataman of the Wolverine Mercenary Legions. It was a close competition and when it came down to it, the decision was made based on their beliefs and persona. Mikhail was the atypical Wolverine, massive, powerful and joyfully boisterous. Timujin however was almost the opposite. He was wasn't as obviously powerful, used tactics and stratagems that more often than not riled up fellow Wolverine Commanders and often times he was seen as coldly practical. Wolverines were renowned for their soldiering and discipline, but even among the commanders there was talk that his wolverines followed orders partly out of fear. In the eyes of the assembled commanders at the time, the decision was clear. Timujin never got over the fact that Mikhail was chosen for personality rather than competency and their friendly competition was never the same.

“Now is not the time to be sparring,” Mikhail stated, looking forward towards the horizon steadily. “The boat would not stay afloat if we did.”

“Very well, Ataman,” Timujin stated lowly and left.

Mihail looked over his shoulder at the retreating wolverine, seeing the clear disrespect but deciding to do nothing. He could have easily pulled rank instead of simply asking Timujin to leave, but that would have resulted in even greater spite down the line, and Mikhail honestly missed the friendly rivalry the both of them used to enjoy. While Timujin didn't share Mikhail's opinions and agreed with his decisions, he more importantly followed orders despite who gave them as a good wolverine should. As long as that remained the same, Mikhail could deal with a bit of hostility from him.

The Ataman of the wolverines looked over the merchant fleet his people had commissioned. Scattered over the entire fleet was a force of ten thousand wolverine mercenaries, the mighty mercenaries of the west. They would be contracted to the Enclave for an indefinite amount of time and serve as payment for shipments of meat fruit. He himself would go along with them, not to stay permanently but to ensure they would settle in well into their duties and no issues would arise.

Whether it was the lands of the great western continent or the lands across the sea, none would find the mercenaries of the wolverine legions wanting.

DELTA

“Gah!” Twilight shouted as a thick layer of snow fall from above and buried her.

Currently the purple unicorn was in a magical duel with another unicorn. Said unicorn was Trixie from the ill fated magic show she had put on in Ponyville little over two years ago. Trixie had returned not too long ago to avenge herself upon the ponies of Ponyville, Twilight's friends and Twilight herself. So far the duel was going rather well. Nothing Trixie did was too hard to undo, but so far Twilight was on the defensive and was simply casting counter spells.

With a quick heating spell followed by another one to dry herself off, Twilight got rid of the snow she was covered in and had soaked her. After that, Twilight frowned and thought of difficult spell for Trixie to undo when an idea struck her. Horn glowing with magic, Twilight quickly cast a spell and sent a beam at Trixie.

The spell impacted Trixie in the face and with a startled shout the cloaked unicorn started rapidly shrinking. A moment later, standing where the unicorn had been was a plushy replica of her with the now barely hanging on amulet around its neck. Twilight smiled at that as her friends laughed. It was a rather difficult spell to do, but she managed it rather easily now thanks to the magical practices she did with Emerald. Twilight frowned as she stared at the odd amulet with the red gem in it. The spell should have changed it as well, but it didn't. Just as Twilight stepped forward to investigate, there was a bright flash of light and Trixie was back to her original state, amulet now fitting again.

“H-hmph! I a-admit that was impressive,” Trixie said as she quickly tried to shake off the experience of being turned into a plushy. “For a mere novice that is! Snips! Sails! Come forward!”

“Wh-what is it, oh Great and P-P-Powerful Trixie?” Snips said nervously as he and his friend stepped forward and bowed.

Suddenly a crimson aura surrounded the two young ponies and they were lifted up into the air. Everyone stared in worry and concern as the aura grew in intensity. A moment later the aura left and the two ponies fell onto the ground, changed.

Snips, now a small baby, started crying while Snails who had become rather old started to grumble and moan as his fragile body started to ache.

“An age spell?” Twilight exclaimed in surprise. “But... how could you do an age spell? That's only for the highest level unicorns!”

“Well, Twilight? Give up?” Trixie said while examining a hoof, voice dripping with arrogance.

Twilight sighed and stared at the changed Snips and Snails for a moment before fixing her expression into one of intense concentration. Once again Snips and Snails rose into the air as an magical aura surrounded them and Twilight's horn. The others stared up with wide hopeful expressions, fully expecting Twilight to come through in the end.

“Come on, Twilight, you can do it!” Spike said in encouragement.

Twilight gritted her teeth as the light around her horn grew ever more intense. The purple unicorn ground her teeth and exerted an even larger amount of magic into the spell and tried to push on with all of her might. But with an audible sputter, the light around her horn died and she collapsed to the ground a moment later, and a still baby and eldery Snips and Snails fell back to the ground.

“Trixie is the highest level unicorn!” Trixe exalted with smug laughter before turning towards Twilight with a smirk. “And now it's time for you to leave Ponyville! FOREVER!”

Twilight's friends quickly moved to shield Twilight away from Trixie and attempt to protect her, but in the brief silence that followed Trixie's pronouncement, a voice carried far and loud.

“... Emerald is going to be furious when she gets back.”

“WHO?” Trixie shouted at the green unicorn who dared speak up in her moment of victory, far too absorbed in the moment to notice the changeling standing beside said unicorn. She did, however, notice and blink in confusion when suddenly the crowd let out a gasp.

“I believe they mean me,” said a voice behind her and Trixie turned only to be met with the sight of something looming over her.

“Emerald!” Twilight shouted.

The virus didn't initially acknowledge the shout, a bit more busy with looking down her nose at Trixie. She also happened to be wearing her formal regalia, seemingly for added intimidation. After spending a moment freezing Trixie in place with a stare, she disappeared with a flash and reappeared next to Twilight.

“Are you okay, Twilight?” Emerald asked with a frown as she looked over the unicorn. “I caught the tail end of that. She didn't hurt you, did she? God have mercy if she did because I-”

“I'm okay, Emerald,” Twilight said reassuringly. “She didn't hurt me.”

“Good,” Emerald said before noticing Pinkie's currently mouthless state. With an irritated grimace, she quickly undid the spell, a small bolt of pink lightning leaping from her finger to the party mare's face.

“GAH!” Pinkie gasped. “I CAN BREATHE! Thank you, Emmy!”

“No problem.”

“If the rabble is done disrespecting Trixie by ignoring her presence!” Trixie began with a shout, having since recovered from getting glared at. “The matter of the consequences of losing a duel shall be carried out! Say goodbye to Ponyville, Sparkle, because-”

“I highly doubt that claim would stand up in the courts,” Emerald stated simply, standing back up and walking to come to a stop a short distance in front of Trixie.

“Trixie will MAKE IT work!” Trixie shouted, her eyes flashing red in anger. “You dare get involved in the business of your betters, creature!? If you do not mind your own right this instant, you shall suffer Trixie's wrath!”

“Stop talking in third person,” Emerald said in rising irritation, her own eyes glowing orange in response to Trixie's ocular display. “And I'm not surprised you don't recognize me considering how I look right now.”

“Oh?” Trixie said with a raised brow and watched as Emerald magicked up a hologram of her pony form next to her. “Ah, I see. So... skilled enough to use magic to change shape but not skilled enough to not be homeless? Hmm, perhaps Trixie shall show mercy and offer you position as my own personal jester? You are certainly dressed for it!”

“... Have you spent the last few years with your head buried in the sand?” Emerald asked to Trixie's rising anger. “That has to be the explanation, as even the biggest idiot in Equestria would know by now the worst thing you could ever do is mess with Twilight.”

“YOU DARE SPEAK TO TRIXIE IN SUCH A-”

“Shh! You hear that?” Emerald said suddenly, surprising Trixie enough that she remained quiet for a moment. “Nice, quiet, peaceful day. On days like this third person idiots like you... SHOULD SHUT THE HELL UP!”

Suddenly the virus made an underhand slash through the air with her right arm. A wave of pink energy washed forward like a tidal wave at incredible speeds. With a startled scream, Trixie was sent flying through the air. After a moment, though, he unicorn had the sense to catch herself before she hit the ground and set herself upright.

“You dare attack Trixie?!” the unicorn shouted, her eyes and horn blazing red but not more so than her amulet.

“You dare try to kick Twilight out of her home!” Emerald shouted back and slashed sideways, sending the unicorn into an uncontrolled roll onto her side. “Away from her friends and away from me?! I have no idea what sort of incredible retardation you have suddenly been afflicted along with third person, but I'm not complaining! I needed a stress ball to squeeze, anyway!”

“Trixie will not take this abuse!” the unicorn shouted as she got back onto her hooves with her horn and eyes blazing red.

A crimson beam of intense magic tore through the air towards Emerald. In response, the virus jerked her left hand towards the sky. The very front of the beam turned pink and it suddenly turned away from Emerald and towards the sky. Emerald then made a pushing motione with her right hand and once again sent the unicorn flipping through the air.

“Can you feel that?” Bon Bon asked Lyra as she watched the fight. “So much magic in the air...”

“Yeah, she's not even trying to be energy efficient,” Lyra replied as she stared at the 'duel'. “She’s just throwing raw magic left, right and center.”

“What, you can actually see that happening?” Twilight said in surprise and blinked when she got an insulted look from Lyra.

“I went to the same darn school as you, Twilight, before you became the princess's student,” Lyra said with a scowl. “Of course I can see what's happening, jeez... you'd think somepony like you would remember your former classmates a bit better.”

“Oh... I'm sorry.”

“Whatever,” Lyra said and narrowed her eyes as she studied Emerald redirecting another magical beam. “See, look at that! Instead of making a deflective barrier to redirect the beam in a more efficient manner she just crudely grabs hold of the beam directly. It's the same story for what she does when she attacks, too. She just sends out a wave of raw magic to send Trixie flying. Normally this is what I'd call amateur hour in the schoolyard, but... she doesn't even look the slightest bit drained! She is wasting enough magic to exhaust most masters by now and she looks almost bored! The amount of magic she must have is just... unthinkably huge.”

'Is this what I do now?' Emerald thought scornfully as she backhanded a beam into the sky. 'Get upset about something that is my fault and find someone to take it out on? What next, huh? Come home drunk and angry and smack around Twilight?'

“Stay still!” Trixie shouted angrily as she sent another beam and Emerald simply leaned out of the way. “Trixie shall be avenged this day! Nopony will ever laugh at me again!”

“Look... I think we've all made some bad mistakes here,” Emerald said with a sigh and a held up hand. “Just... stop, okay? We don't have to fight anymore. I take responsibility for what happened since I kind of just got violent right away. How about it, huh? We just stop fighting, I get you a large bag of bits to compensate you for lost time and reputation, then we go our separate ways without ever having to deal with each other ever again. So what do you say? Truce?”

For a long moment, Trixie simply stared as Emerald held out a hand with a small, almost hopeful smile. She honestly found the offer extremely appealing; just take a ton of money, turn her back on Sparkle and the homeless, shapeshifting unicorn with the freakishly powerful magic, start somewhere new and never think about this again. But before she could seriously consider accepting the offer, a sudden surge of dark and hateful thoughts overwhelmed her. Suddenly she was insulted that anyone could ever think she'd be so petty as to abandon her righteous revenge just for some spare change.

“You DARE mock Trixie!” the unicorn snarled, her eyes, horn and amulet blazing a blinding crimson as Emerald sighed and retracted her held out hand. “Trixie's revenge will not be denied! SUFFER!”

With a roar, Trixie let loose a beam of magic that was far more powerful than before. The beam was a full meter in circumference and the crowd gasped and shouted in shock as it screamed towards Emerald who simply stood in place. The beam then impacted the virus and suddenly a horrible grinding sound filled the air. Suddenly, the beam began to rapidly lose its mass as Trixie started to finally run out of steam and everyone could see that rather than hitting Emerald, the beam was grinding against the virus' held out hand where a blinding light was held.

After a moment more of pouring everything she had into the spell, Trixie released a gasp and collapsed onto the ground, much the same way Twilight had just minutes before. After a moment spent panting on the ground in exhaustion before opening her eyes to look at Emerald, Trixie widened her eyes when, instead of properly punished as she should have been, Emerald was simply standing in the same spot with a disappointed expression; in her left hand was a crimson ball of magic.

“I thought I told you to stop speaking in third person...” Emerald said softly before motioning to the ball of magic in her hands. “This... this power is enough give one of the princesses a decent fight. Therefore it can't be yours.”

With that, Emerald crushed the ball of magic within her fist and a sharp, deafening crack echoed throughout the air as she walked toward Trixie. The unicorn just continued to lie down on the ground, staring up at Emerald in total shock at the fact all of her power was nothing to her. Emerald came to a stop before the prone unicorn and reached down with both hands to grasp at the amulet. With a sharp tug, Emerald forcefully took the amulet off the unresisting unicorn's neck. She turned about and walked back towards Twilight whilst staring down at the amulet.

'Hmph. Great, another thing to study and research,' Emerald thought before pocketing the amulet. 'I'll put it in some vault for later. I've got more important things to do...'

“Could someone take care of her for a bit?” Emerald asked aloud, looking back over her shoulder at Trixie who was still frozen in shock. “I meant what I said earlier and want to ask her again when she has calmed down a bit.”

“...Sure,” Bon Bon said after a quiet moment of no one saying anything and walked towards Trixie.

The former infiltrator stopped beside a still blankly staring Trixie and tilted her head as she studied the unicorn, likely using her natural abilities to discern her emotional state. She then reached out and gently laid her hoof on Trixie's shoulder.

“Hey,” Bon Bon said softly which got Trixie to turn her head towards the changeling before Bon Bon gently pulled her into a tight hug. Trixie seemed to be shocked by this, but after a moment started to cry softly into Bon Bon's shoulder, eventually turning into a full out bawl after a few moments. Bon Bon simply patted the unicorn's back and held her close.

“Came to Ponyville to find love, but she always did have plenty of it to give out to anypony who needed it,” Lyra said with a small smile before turning towards Emerald with a frown. “I'm still mad at you for what you did to Bon Bon, you know. No pony with a heart as big as hers deserved that.”

“I'm sorry...” Emerald said softly, averting her eyes away from Lyra.

“...” Lyra tilted her head as Emerald looked oddly fragile at the moment, plus the way she was acting near the end of the duel seemed rather strange for someone as unrepentantly protective of loved ones as her. “I'm not the one you should be saying sorry to, Emerald. Anyway, I better get back home and prepare some space at our house. Don't be a stranger, Emerald.”

The virus flashed a strained smile after the green unicorn before turning back to where Twilight and the others were standing, looking rather awkward as Trixie's crying filled the air.

“Twilight?” Emerald said quietly as she stepped close to the unicorn. “We need to talk.”

“Is this about the duel, Emerald?” Twilight asked. “I know I didn't win, but this wasn’t exactly an actual fight so-”

“No, it's not about that. It's just... you were right,” Emerald said with a sigh and got a confused look from Twilight. “You... you were right about me.”

“Emerald, what?” Twilight said with a confused frown. “I don't know what you mean.”

“You said I needed help. Said I wasn't well...” Emerald explained. “And that I needed professional help. I realized you... yes. I-I-I did... I did... you said you wanted to help me and... I know I'm better than I was. I have to be, but I... it's too slow I'm just... not getting better anymore or just not fast enough. I just... I don't know what to do...”

“Emerald, come here,” Twilight said soothingly and Emerald did, shifting back into her pony form smoothly and was pulled into a hug. “You did the most important part already... you admitted you had a problem.”

The virus had to give a snort at that.

“Hey now, I know it's cliche but that doesn't make it any less true,” Twilight said in mock irritation. “You just leave the rest to me, okay? I've got everything handled and planned out from here.”

“Okay...”

EPSILON

“THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!” a great bellow echoed.

Currently, one of the lesser Griffin Princes was meeting with his family's small council. The room they were meeting in had a large crescent shaped table with a large, finely carved elevated stone throne at the head. The table seated eight griffins, but one of them was currently standing before the table for a more central position to vent their opinion. The room was made of oak and one wall opened up to the outdoors, allowing a gorgeous view of a pine forest filled mountain valley and the snow capped mountains themselves looming overhead.

“THIS IS A CLEAR AND PURPOSEFUL SPITTING ON THE HONOR OF THE GRIFFINS!” a large brown feathered and furred griffin wearing a simple jerkin roared, practically splintering the wooden floor from the claws of his hind legs. “SHE WAS TRUSTED TO REPRESENT ALL OF US AND SHE-”

“Calm yourself, cousina” an elderly griffin wearing dark gray robes said with a raised, placating talon. “We all share your fury on this indignity, but what is done is done. Now we must think with a cleared head and decide how to proceed.”

“There is not much that can be done in any case,” a wild looking griffin in battered but polished iron armor muttered. “The Grand Prince hasn't reprimanded Lady Vilja for her behavior and unwarranted demand for harsher reparations. This missive bears the seal of the Grand Prince's court and clearly states his own opinions on the matter.”

Said missive was currently in the talons of the prince who sat in his throne overlooking the small council. The prince wasn't happy, but one wouldn't have been able to tell due to his stony expression. The contents of the missive detailed the reparations that the Enclave would be paying the Principalities and further detailed just how much metal tonnage each house was due. The rest of the missive described how one was to send the Enclave the details of what kind of metals the house wanted and arrangements for shipping.

The prince, after reading the missive over for the tenth time, raised a talon and silenced the room.

“As much as I wish to simply have the whole of our house turn our beaks up at this-” The Prince paused a moment to hold the missive at arm's length. “-blatant and inexplicable schoolyard bullying, we do actually need the metals.”

The burly griffin standing in the center looked ridiculous for a moment as all his feathers became ruffled and his fur stood on end. But after a moment, he calmed down and looked distinctly troubled. It was the same expression the rest of the small council mirrored. The lands and central hold of House Gravor was only a fraction as rich and influential as the middling houses themselves, let alone the Great Princes who ruled from the Great Holds atop the mountains. The place their own hold was situated atop was less a mountain and more a hill top, the grand majority of their traded goods consisted of lumber, furniture and various carved trinkets. A further sign of their near irrelevancy was what the House's Knights were armed and armored with. Most wealthy houses could afford the finest of steel armor and weapons for their knights. The even greater houses went an extra step to show their prosperity in plating their steel armor with beautifully embossed brass. Lesser houses like Gravor could only afford to give their knights iron arms and armor. Honestly, the prince could have easily saved up and tooled up his knights with steel gear, but a prince's duty was to the people he ruled and most of his funds went back into developing his demesne further, rather than upgrading his knights' gear. With metals they could get from the Enclave, they could not only afford to retool the knights, but the common folk themselves.

“I do not intend to just quietly accept what is little more than a demand of tribute, however,” the prince stated firmly, silencing several protests before they could be voiced. “We shall get into contact with the Enclave and ask what they wish of us in return for their goods.”

“Would that not go against the spirit of the reparations?” one council member asked. “Surely the Grand Prince would protest us turning it into a simple trade deal.”

“The Grand Prince has made his thoughts clear by his silence regarding Lady Vilja's actions,” the elderly robed griffin said lowly. “Such skulduggery is unworthy of a Grand Prince. If he is going to behave as such, so should we follow our Grace's example.”

“Hear, hear!” the council said together, raising mugs in agreement.

“Very well,” the prince nodded in decision. “Call the scribes. We shall begin penning the letter immediately.”

ZETA

Emerald was leaning back against a tree.

The virus was currently in her pony form and trying to relax at a local park. It had been a day since the whole incident with Trixie. Said unicorn was still locked away in Lyra and Bon Bon's house and Emerald wasn't sure what to feel. Twilight had spent all the previous day sending messages back and forth between her and the princesses back in Canterlot. Emerald wasn't exactly sure who she’d set her up with to talk to, since almost all of the things she'd talk about would be too intense for a pony.

'Just don't think about it...' Emerald thought with a sigh. 'Just... try to feel something other than numbness.'

That was the emotion Emerald found herself feeling after she somehow managed to confuse herself trying to convey what she meant to Twilight. Just numbness, both within and without. But it wasn't the horrible sort. Not the kind you feel after doing something terrible and before coming to terms with what you just did... it was a good numbing. Like the end of a long and hard workout, the dull pangs of an ache on the edges of the senses but an overall numbing and underlying feeling of having done something good for yourself. Frankly, this feeling was making the virus rather confused about the whole thing and right now she was simply just sitting and waiting for something to knock her out of her current status so she could go about her business.

“Hey there, sugarcube,” said a voice that had actually managed to surprise Emerald, though her response left much to be desired as she currently felt so numb her only response was to blink.

Emerald looked back to see Applejack leaning against the tree with a thoughtful look on her face.

“You're looking more lost then a goose among ducks,” the cowpony commented. “Something bothering you?”

“Uh... I...” Emerald legitimately struggled for several moments, not at all expecting to be having a conversation like this with Applejack ever again. Eventually though, the virus simply sighed and shrugged her shoulders.

“Cat got your tongue, huh?” Applejack commented with a crooked smile. “That's okay. Don't need no fancy words to tell you ain't happy.”

“Oh?” Emerald looked up at the earth pony with a raised eyebrow.

“Even with family, Big Mac ain't much for talkin’,” Applejack answered simply.

“Oh,” Emerald said and looked back out towards the park. The following silence was actually rather comfortable and the two spent a solid ten minutes quietly taking in the sounds of nature, along with the far off noise of ponies going about their business in town.

“View here ain't bad at all, but I know a better spot,” Applejack said and pushed off the tree to stand just in front of Emerald. “How about you let me show you?”

“...Sure,” Emerald answered and got off the ground to follow the cowpony who led the way.

The two traveled through town and soon enough Emerald found herself being lead into the hills covered in apple trees just outside Sweet Apple Acres. Eventually the two came to a stop overlooking the Apple family's property. Applejack motioned for Emerald to take a seat, the virus did and Applejack sat down beside her.

“You know...” the cowpony began, staring over her home. “My family was always full of honest, hard working ponies. Never was an Apple who wasn't proud and happy to be working the fields and making a good, honest living. Matter of fact... I do believe you are the only one who can ever be called a black sheep among Apples.”

“What?” Emerald said with wide eyes. “You mean even after everything you know, you still...”

“Darn tootin!” Applejack said with a toothy smile. “I said it before, I'll say it again. You are an honorary Apple in my books and an Apple never gives up on family. Just took me a while to come to terms with all of everything is all. To be completely honest with you, wasn't completely sure if I still actually wanted you to still be family... but the most important part of family is helping each other when we're down. Ain't no one more down then you, sugarcube, no matter how much you try to hide it.”

“...” Emerald stared for a moment before her eyes started watering and she choked up a little before quickly pulling Applejack into a tight hug.

“Woah!” Applejack said in surprise, somewhat awkwardly wrapping her forelegs around Emerald to return the hug. “Didn't see that coming... you okay there, sugarcube?”

“Yeah... just give me a minute...” Emerald muttered into Applejack's shoulder.

“Sure thing,” Applejack said and waited a few moments, beginning to hum a little to pass the time.

“Okay, okay. You don't need to go that far,” Emerald said with a small laugh and let go of the cowpony while wiping her eyes clean. “I guess this means I can come around the place again and visit?”

“Course you can!” Applejack said with a smile. “Sweetie’s been missing you visiting their little club house over there. Sure she’ll be glad to see you come around again, sugarcube.”

“I definitely will,” Emerald said before looking over Sweet Apple Acres again with a smile, Applejack at her side and enjoying the view and the peace and quiet with her.

ETA

Within the cavern of the mirror pool, things remained the same. The pool continued to perfectly reflect all that could be seen on its surface, its magical power continuing to glow and fill the cave with its soft light and all remained still and silent within the cavern.

Quite suddenly, there was a ripple in the pond. Then a wave of sparks washed over its surface. More ripples appeared and its calm surface soon disappeared as ripples turned into small waves that sent water flying. The glow of the pool rapidly changed from blindingly bright to almost non-existent. Bolts of lightning of every color leapt from the pool, striking the walls and ground of the cavern. After a few moments of chaotic energies filling the air and water going everywhere, the pool suddenly went still and the glow lessened until barely anything could be seen in the cavern.

There was a sound of something moving in the water before a serpentine shape crawled out of the pool and into the darkness of the cavern. There was the sound of exhausted panting as the shape laid on the ground for several minutes. Eventually, the shape rose up onto a pair of hind legs and unfurled a single wing. There were two soft glowing spots on the shape, one on its back and where one of its eyes might be. The shape seemed to study its surroundings for a long moment before gasping and recoiling as it stared northward. After a few moments of silence, a barely there whisper filled the cavern as the being seemed to speak to itself and calm down. After a moment more, it simply disappeared into nothingness.

The cavern of the mirror pool lied dark and silent in the passing of the being who emerged from the pool. The pool itself laid still and ever so faintly glowing, its surface now bearing an oily like sheen. Apart from that, all remained the same with no one the wiser...

-TBC-

Author's Note:

AN: And done, wish I could have gotten this done a lot faster but I kept getting distracted. Since my editor didn't have much time to do this until much later I also took the time to add another scene to this for all your reading enjoyment. Just let me say this... the next few chapters are going to be awesome for me to write.

EN: Sorry for the delay, y’all. Got hired for a job (And subsequently fired one week later because the managers are assholes…) and I had less time to edit. Back to joblessness now, so unless I get hired again (Which I need to be if I want to make BronyCon in early July) I’ll be able to edit sooner. Also, you have no idea how much I wanted to brain Legionary over there during the editing of this chapter… puns, title chapters, references, music and more… and I have never hated laughing so much. For all those Undertale fans out there… you know exactly at which point this all occurred.

AN2: She was having a bad time ;)

EN2: I hate you so much right now. *shakes a bony fist at you*

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